Get to know: USA newcomer Gabi Sasai
Winning your first Hyundai Archery World Cup medal at your first stage of the tour is a big deal.
It’s an even bigger deal when you have just turned 16-years-old and when you haven’t even been out of your continent for 10 years.
But to win that medal with someone you used to dream of shooting alongside having seen posters of them on the range when you were just six years old?
That’s impressive. But for the USA’s Gabi Sasai, it is all in a day’s work.
Here are eight things you need to know about one of archery’s most exciting young talents.
As an archer, Sasai already has the ultra-cool needed at the top level, evidenced by that medal in Turkey.
But, like all elite athletes, her focus on the sport has not come without personal sacrifice.
“I am dedicated and extra. By this, I mean that I am willing to go to that one extra practice session, shoot that one extra end that most people aren’t doing if it means I can be the most prepared,” she says.
“I’m dedicated because I understand I have to make choices, to miss social events and such to go to archery. It really is not a sacrifice to me because I choose to do archery, it is not something I am forced to do. I would not trade any of the choices that I’ve made for archery for anything.”
2. The full 360
Life has many challenges, a lot of the time solved by thinking a situation through. Archery is no different and Sasai is the biggest supporter of that way of thought.
“I consider myself a very analytical person, I believe that one can find a solution to any problem if they just put their mind to it and think from every angle,” she says. “This helps me in archery when I can’t quite find the answer to an issue in my shooting.”
3. Liquid superpower
Bubble tea. Maybe you know it as boba tea, boba, bubble milk tea, pearl milk tea or tapioca milk tea? A drink that was born in Taipei but has spread over the world.
“If I’m not at school or practice you can find me at my local boba shop getting a classic black milk tea with boba. This is my go-to after practice snack and comfort food,” she says. “Boba has helped me more in my archery journey than one might think; I sometimes use it as motivation to go to practice which has helped me escape burning out by keeping me motivated towards something a little more short-term rather than something longer term such as a tournament.”
4. Dreams become reality
There was probably not anyone in the world of archery who could resist a little feeling of happiness when Sasai revealed to World Archery that she used to look up to Brady Ellison since she was six years old, having seen posters of him at her archery school and watching him on the international tour.
In April 2022, she not only shot with him at a stage of the World Cup, but won that mixed team bronze medal. The photo of them together in the early rounds is quickly becoming iconic, showcasing the role of mentoring and its power.
“Brady kept me pumped up the entire time [in Antalya] and reassured me that I belonged in the crowd of the world’s best,” said Sasai. “It, to me, is the perfect way to start my season and I wouldn’t want to share this success with anyone else.”
5. Unsung hero
That success in Turkey was shared with someone else – Gabi’s father. He was responsible for introducing her to the bow and arrow at a very young age after he wanted to return to competitive air pistol shooting after taking a break, but didn’t want to take the six-year-old to a gun range.
“I first started archery as a way to get out of the house,” explains Sasai. “We started at Next Step Archery in Washington state. He was the first person I texted [after winning]. “He was back home, which is 10 hours behind Turkey, but he stayed up into the night to watch and he texted me back a crying emoji and told me that he was so proud of me.”
“Without him driving me to practice, organising all my trips and being my second set of eyes while shooting, I would not be the archer I am today.”
6. Passport needed
In her young life so far, Gabi had only left her continent once, to visit family in Germany when she was just three years old.
Turkey was her first trip outside since then and was only her second non-USA shooting experience, following her recurve women’s team silver at the 2021 Junior Pan American Games in Colombia with Casey Kaufhold.
“It was very exciting packing for Turkey because I knew this trip was special, more than just a vacation as my peers at school saw it,” she says. “It was business and work, but I love what I do so I never feel like I’m working and it felt really nice to be in foreign air.”
7. Equipped for success
Despite now making her name with a recurve, having been inspired by the bow her father was shooting and remembering seeing it on television as far back as the London 2012 Olympic Games, Gabi started archery with a compound. (As many young shooters do in the US through NASP.)
“The first bow I ever owned and shot was a pink Genesis compound because I was too short to shoot any recurve at the time,” she said.
“When I got my first recurve bow it was a 21-inch Hoyt Horizon in pink with Sebastian Flute limbs, a cartel sight, which I very soon upgraded to the original Shibuya Ultima which I used for the next nine years and the smallest Doinker stabilisers. This was my baby and I could not let it go. I still own all the original parts to this day.”
8. Lazy, not lazy
It’s important to not always focus on anything 100% of the time. Gabi certainly has many other interests in her life.
“I always joke that I am lazy because I love to lounge around, watch shows, drink boba (bubble) tea and cuddle with my dog,” she says. “My papa always reminds me though that my dedication to archery makes me far from lazy and not to sell myself short.”
“Away from archery, I study computer science which I hope to make a career in, I enjoy playing games such as Animal Crossing, League of Legends and Valorant, and I’m also in a competitive jazz ensemble that primarily plays big band style jazz pieces. I play lead alto saxophone but I can also play many more instruments.”
Follow Gabi on Instagram: @gabi365archery